“Materialistic persons who can achieve such huge quantities of gold every day are not interested in Krishna consciousness. Sometimes, therefore, in order to show special favor, Krishna takes away great accumulations of materialistic wealth from a person and thus makes him a great devotee. But Satrajit refused to abide by the order of Krishna and did not deliver the jewel to Him.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 1)
Like a hot potato, bouncing from one person to another, changing possession constantly. It was supposed to bring auspiciousness, immunity from disease and pestilence, but there was actually trouble for everyone involved. An intricate story almost requiring a map of the characters and the various stages of ownership to keep track, the Syamantaka jewel affair described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam teaches many valuable lessons about both material and spiritual life.
1. Demigod worship is attractive
The vast dominion of Dvaraka had Shri Krishna at the center. Since He was the acknowledged life of the city of gates, Krishna was also known as Dvarakadisha. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the otherwise abstract picture of God. The people of Dvaraka loved Him purely, and though they were pretty sure He was God Himself, they nevertheless thought of Krishna as the most important person in their lives.
Yet demigod worship is always attractive. There was another king within the Dvaraka jurisdiction named Satrajit. He was a great worshiper of the sun-god. Being pleased with the worship, his deity granted Satrajit an amazing jewel known as Syamantaka. Satrajit one time wore that jewel as he entered Dvaraka, and due to the effulgence people mistook him for the sun-god.
Even in a place where Krishna was presiding over as protector, there was interest in demigod worship. The Syamantaka jewel could produce an amazing amount of gold on a daily basis. Gold is a material element, after all, not really different from the temporary body that must be given up at some point. Still, the allure of material life remains. It’s so powerful that it can quickly take a person away from the righteous path.
2. It is easy to turn away from God
Satrajit established a temple. What was the focus of worship? Was it a high personality? Was it the creator of the universe? Actually, the temple was for the jewel. Satrajit established the temple and set up daily worship by qualified priests. The motive was not pure, however. There was an expected benefit. Satrajit enjoyed the huge amounts of gold produced by the worship.
Simply worshiping the king of Dvaraka would have proved a much more valuable use of time. A person worships God and gets rid of impurities. Instead of feverishly pursuing money, fame, and wealth, wouldn’t it be better to have peace and calm, without any desire for such things that cause trouble? Gold had taken hold of Satrajit’s intelligence.
3. Material amenities don’t lead to happiness
What if you were promised to have all your needs taken care of? No requirement to work. Food, clothing, shelter – everything necessary in abundant supply. Would you be happy as a result?
We can look to the Syamantaka jewel story for the answer. It produced so much gold, and there was the added benediction of lack of inauspicious bodily conditions. Still, there was no happiness. This is because no amount of material accumulation is enough. One person has so much gold, and another person wants the same. Kama, or lust, turned into krodha, or wrath, is the all-devouring enemy of this world, as confirmed by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
4. Too much gold leads to trouble
The Syamantaka jewel was the beginning of trouble, and for so many people. Satrajit’s brother one day decided to travel with the jewel. While in the forest area, he was killed by a lion. Jambavan, the great devotee of Shri Rama in a bear’s body, saw the jewel and battled the lion for it. Emerging victorious, Jambavan handed the jewel over to his small boy.
When Satrajit’s brother did not return, there was concern. Satrajit thought that maybe Krishna was jealous of the jewel and wanted it for Himself. To get rid of the rumors, Krishna went with some people from the town to find out what happened. Krishna eventually went inside of a cave where Jambavan lived. The two engaged in fighting for many days, until Jambavan finally realized that Krishna was the same Shri Rama. Jambavan was part of the army of monkeys who helped Rama build a bridge to Lanka to rescue the Lord’s wife Sita.
Jambavan happily gave Krishna the jewel. He also asked Krishna to take his daughter Jambavati in marriage. Krishna returned to Dvaraka with the jewel and a new wife. Satrajit was embarrassed by the whole affair, but he got the jewel back. Krishna did not want it, and Satrajit didn’t really want to part with it. Satrajit did give away his beautiful daughter Satyabhama to be married to Krishna.
Of course the troubles didn’t end there. There were still rivalries. There were some scores to be settled. A conspiracy emerged to get the jewel from Satrajit. A man named Shatadhanva did the unspeakable. He broke into Satrajit’s home at night and killed the father of Satyabhama while he was asleep. Krishna and His older brother Balarama were away on a trip at the time.
So afraid of the repercussions, Shatadhanva decided it was best not to keep the Syamantaka jewel. He handed it over to Akrura, who is Krishna’s uncle. Shatadhanva then fled the town. When Krishna returned and learned what happened, He chased after Shatadhanva. He finally caught him and killed him with His sudarshana-chakra, the disc weapon. Yet the jewel was not found on Shatadhanva.
When Krishna came back from the chase, he summoned Akrura. People could tell with the increased wealth in gold that Akrura likely had the jewel. Akrura showed the jewel to Krishna, and the matter was settled once and for all. All because of gold, so many false rumors were spread. Pride, vanity, vengeance – just for gold.
5. No one’s reputation is safe in this world
Goswami Tulsidas references the Syamantaka jewel in his Dohavali. The poet says that no one’s reputation is safe in this world, for even Sita and Krishna were defamed. Sita is the wife of Shri Rama. She is the most chaste lady, but after being kidnapped by Ravana some people in Ayodhya thought that maybe her chastity was violated as a result. Though she passed the fire test after being rescued by Rama, there was still doubt in some people’s minds.
Krishna was the acknowledged leader of Dvaraka, and yet due to gold His character was doubted for a brief period. Of course Sita and Krishna are above the material world; nothing can touch them. The incidents teach the valuable lesson that even the greatest personalities can suffer damage to their reputation. The material world is such that jealousy, envy and insecurity of emotion take away the intelligence of even the wisest men. The best course is to always be devoted to God the person, who maintains the devotion of His devotees.
Kama over intelligence a hold,
All for just a little gold.
Syamantaka jewel to king coming,
After pleased with him sun-god becoming.
Troubles starting from there,
Soon jewel gone, not known to where.
Even with leader of Dvaraka suspicion,
Fixed when to Akrura requisition.
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